Can you imagine anything much better than being given free roam of a festival for four days, with a camera, in the sun? It’s pretty much the dream brief for any documentary photographer and a job that Danny North, Jenna Foxton, Sian Davey and Max Miechowski got to enjoy earlier this summer.
Fanatic, Danny’s festival photography company, was commissioned by Wilderness Festival to capture the event in a relaxed and authentic way. Having started the company with Andrew Whitton, Danny and his team have documented the festival for several years now. 2018, however, was the first time it requested a series of images shot on film. As a result, Fanatic curated a large team with around half – Jenna, Danny, Max and Sian – exclusively shooting on the slower (and inevitably more expensive) medium. This decision was “a huge leap of confidence for the festival as it involves a significant increase in budget and fewer images,” Danny tells us.
With the digital team taking care of the social media requirements, the film team was given total freedom. “The festival was incredibly accommodating in that respect, we were literally allowed to roam for four days and shoot to our heart’s content,” Danny recalls.
Every day, the photographers would set out in search of moments to capture. Ranging from shots of big groups in awe of a performance, to quiet, intimate moments between individuals, the joint series paints a picture of a welcoming and friendly long weekend. “We don’t believe in shooting side by side, as you often get distracted by conversation or both wanting to shoot the same thing, which can be frustrating,” Danny explains of how Fanatic operates, “Even though we all go our separate ways, we do meet up regularly through the day to catch up and see how we’re all doing.”
This process results in comprehensive documentation of an event, nuanced by the various lenses of each photographer. By each providing their own version of the experience, Danny, Max, Jenna and Sian have created a true reflection of Wilderness and the people who attended it. “I can’t speak for everyone else,” Danny comments, “but I had a genuinely beautiful moment when I asked a couple to pose for me. I had found a little area in some ferns that looked perfect, set up my camera and went looking for someone to put in the scene. There was a couple sitting nearby and I asked them to sit for me.” The resulting picture is intimate and tranquil – a stolen moment in the hustle and bustle of the crowds and performers.
It’s the tone of the images which really sets them apart from other photographs of festivals, however – something which is definitely hard to get right. Although full of excitement and energy, the series is littered with beautiful portraiture and an atmosphere of calm. “The vibe at Wilderness is wonderful, it feels like a huge friendly community,” Danny concludes, “I hope the photographs connect you to that experience. It is truly awesome to see a group of unique photographers come together and create a unified series like this.”
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